CSOs react to infectious diseases bill before House of Reps

CSOs react to infectious diseases bill before House of Reps

- 41 civil society groups in the country have kicked against the infectious diseases bill before the House of Reps

- The bill seeks to repeal the obsolete Quarantine Act of 1929 and enact the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill

- The groups stated that a bill as sensitive and crucial as the Control of Infectious Diseases bill must be subjected to public scrutiny

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A total of 41 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have rejected the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill co-sponsored by Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker, House of Representatives and two other lawmakers in the lower chamber.

Although, Gbajabiamila explained that the new bill was introduced because the current framework for the prevention and management of infectious diseases in Nigeria is obsolete and no longer fit for purpose, the civil society groups lamented the accelerated passage to the legislation without consultation and inputs from relevant stakeholders and the public.

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The bill, which seeks to repeal the obsolete Quarantine Act of 1929 and enact the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill, make provisions relating to quarantine and regulations for preventing the introduction into and spread of dangerous infectious diseases in Nigeria, and for other related matters.

The bill which sparked outrage in Nigeria recently, passed first and second reading at plenary under controversial circumstances.

CSOs react to infectious diseases bill before House of Reps

The controversial bill is co-sponsored by Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker, House of Representatives
Source: UGC

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“We also learnt that the bill was slated for a record third reading that same day, before it was resisted by some vigilant members.

“We understand that the House is resolute to pass the bill and it has fixed Tuesday, May 5, 2020, for the presentation of the report of the committee of the whole and clause by clause voting on the bill without public hearing or consultation with relevant stakeholders.

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“This runs contrary to the principles of effective and inclusive lawmaking,” a statement sent to Legit.ng by the CSOs noted.

The civil society organisations listed their concerns on the proposed Bill and the process of its passage as follows;

1. Threats to human rights and abuse of power

The Control of Infectious Diseases Bill vests overbearing discretionary powers on the Director-General of the Nigerian Center for Disease Control (NCDC), while making no provision for reviewing and controlling the exercise of such powers.

2. Ambiguity and lack of clarity

The Bill violates key principles of legislative drafting rules mandating laws to be simple, clear and unambiguous. This leaves room for a significant amount of discretion on the part of the implementing authorities and limits the rights of citizens and respective institutions to question decisions taken in the exercise of the powers provided in the bill.

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3. Inter-agency conflicts and jurisdictional rivalries

The Bill, under Section 55 and 57, confers the power of investigation and arrest on any health officer authorized in writing by the Director-General or a police officer. We fear these provisions will create jurisdictional disagreements between the Nigerian Police and the NCDC.

4. Lack of public scrutiny, stakeholder review and engagement

A bill as sensitive and crucial as the Control of Infectious Diseases bill must be subjected to public scrutiny on the contents of the bill, and to proper debates on the legality, constitutionality, and other aspects of the bill.

To this end, the groups demanded that as a matter of urgency:

1. The House of Representatives subjects the bill to public scrutiny by embarking on stakeholder consultations and a public hearing to harness public inputs into the legislation.

2. Review all provisions of the bill that foster inter-agency conflicts and abuse of power and undermine constitutionally guaranteed rights and are contrary to the rule of law and Nigeria’s international human rights obligations.

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Among the groups are prominent civil society organisations like Yiaga Africa, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Say No Campaign, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Global Rights and African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL).

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